Accuracy of a Soil Test

Wendell OwenWendell Owens

Up until now I have not created a lot of controversy. This is about to change.


I started farming my own crops when I was in the eleventh grade of high school. In the time between then and 1986 I had many soil tests taken. I believed everything on that sheet. In 1986 I joined with Dr. Dan Skow and we got International Ag Labs going. The first indication I had that my belief system may not have been right was when we started visiting laboratories and found that there were many different opinions. The very first surprise I recall was when we visited a land grant college lab and they showed us the different procedures.

When they got to organic matter, we were told they ranked it in three categories. These were high, medium and low. We asked how they tested them and were told “when we hold it in our hand and it is dark colored, it is high. If it is brownish or grey it is medium, and if it is yellow or very light colored, it is low.” At that time I didn’t know much about the testing procedures of soil, but I knew this wasn’t very scientific. I am now up to 2010 and the controversy still continues. We will look at some of the different procedures and I will share some of the opinions I have formed over the last twenty four years.

Agricultural Research on Fusarium Molds

fusarium moldsI hope each of you have enjoyed the early spring weather we are having. I am writing this on March first and the weather is great. The old saying is March comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lion. Maybe we will be lucky this year and the lion will be just a warm rain.

Arouse and Crescendo have been around for a number of years. I have used these products on my farm and have been very pleased with the results. We have had many test plots and have seen larger root systems and higher yield.

Biological Concepts

Biological products and the market place

biological farmingStarting a biological soil program seems to be a very difficult thing for many farmers to do. The fear of the unknown and lack of documented research become real barriers.

Using liquid fish fertilizer on a crop is often questioned by farmers. I am asked if it really works or I am told they have never heard of such a thing. I remember reading about Indians using fish for plant nutrient in my grade school text books.

In most states, liquid or dry fish cannot be sold as a fertilizer, only as a soil admendment. If I would advertise fish products for soil as a fertilizer and make any claims I would be breaking the law. I would be subject to fines and possible jail sentences. The same is true for seaweed products. Seaweed has been used for centuries by people along the oceans as a nutrient source for crop production.

Biological Farming For Long Range Planning

biofarmingDuring the last 30 days I have been doing a great deal of traveling, and I have seen a lot of good crops as well as bad. This year's crop results are going to be greatly affected by method of tillage, seed variety, fertilizer and rainfall.

Be flexible

So far, deep placement of fertilizer looks like the most promising method of application for a dry year. I have a few accounts who put anhydrous knives on their cultivators and deep placed liquid nitrogen 6" - 8" deep between rows. This seems to have greatly improved crop color and growth.

Biological Theory of Ionization - Part 1

Biological Theory of Ionization Part 1Taking a look at humus

Humus is an aspect of soil fertility that is often overlooked. I think we need to look at this aspect of soil much more closely and learn how to maintain and increase humus in our soils.

According to text books, humus is the reservoir in the soil which stores plant food. Humus in the soil is that portion of plant and animal residues left after decomposition. It is usually dark in color, thus giving soil the dark brown to black color.

Much has been written about soil nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and calcium, but very little about humus. Yet humus probably has more to do with the economics of crop production than any other soil parameter.

Humus has a very direct effect on the availability of plant nutrients to the rootlets of plants. The lower the humus content of a soil, the more difficult it is for plants to find sufficient readily available nutrients for healthy crop growth. The more humus present in a soil, the more stable the soil's root zone environment. This normally leads to better yields at less cost per unit produced.

Biological Theory of Ionization - Part 2

earthwormsEarthworms are a very important part of the soil ecology

I recently ran into an interesting phenomenon that might be of interest to many of you, especially those of you who use night crawlers for fishing. I was at a hog farm checking the chlorine level of the farm's well water and observed that when ran the chlorinated water out onto the ground, the night crawlers came wriggling out of the ground very rapidly. The owner told me that he has used this method of catching night crawlers for years.

I find this very interesting since most fields under current cultural practices have few or no earthworms. I know now that the use of potassium chloride drives them out and if that doesn't get them, the anhydrous ammonia does.

Biological Theory of Ionization - Part 3

Biological Theory of Ionization - Part 3Using molasses in fertility programs

I have been asked many questions recently about molasses and its use in soil fertility programs. Many people who are unfamiliar with my program recommendations become very concerned over the use of molasses in a soil program. I wish they would become as concerned over the use of herbicides and insecticides.

I have been looking in college textbooks for verification of the use of molasses in a soil program and have finally found one. The book is called Microorganisms At Work. In Chapter 43 of this book it talks about how molasses may be useful in a soil program to take free nitrogen from the air and make it into a form that can be utilized by plants. The process is called nitrogen fixation. This process converts free nitrogen into nitrogen based chemical compounds or organic compounds.

Biological Theory of Ionization - Part 4

pine trees protect soil and crops from weather extremesHow to get answers to successful crop production

I hope everything is going well for each of you and hope you are getting plenty of rain. I have been listening to some of Dr. Reams' old cassette tapes on soils. The one I enjoyed most was his comments on the importance of Jesus in our daily lives and crop growing program. He was reminding me as I listened to the tape that man is not nearly as smart as he thinks.

First of all, man cannot make a seed, let alone get it to sprout without God. Man cannot bring the wind which helps the sap flow nor the rain. He only thinks he can sometimes.

Breaking Soybean Yield Barriers

Breaking soybean yield barriers.

Soybean production is becoming more challenging and difficult each year. I don't know whether weather patterns are changing or disease and insects are more prevalent, but as I watch farmers attempt to improve yields and profits it certainly seems that what may have worked one year doesn't work very well the next.

For the past 15 years I have studied a number of different soybean management practices and have yet to see one stand out as a consistent winner. I have observed numerous planting and ground preparation methods and have yet to see one that works every time. I have seen ridge no-till, conventional till, solid seeded, drilled, 24" rows, 30" rows and 36" rows and have yet to find one consistent winner.

Bulking the Kernels

Bulking the Kernels

Do you know you can get one-third more corn if you can bulk the kernels of corn?

That works for sweet corn also.

Doctor Skow always said to do this and I know he was right because I have done it. Do you know that corn isn’t supposed to dent? That dent is just shrinkage from the kernels drying out and if you bulk it you can stop that process. Not the process of drying but can prevent the dent in each kernel.

If you are going to do this you need to know the difference between growth elements and seed elements.

Wendell Bulking the kernels Chart2

Corn is what I call a three stage plant. First you grow it; you seed it, seeding is when the tassel comes out, and then you bulk it.

There is much more to it to raising a good corn crop. You need to make sure there is enough available nitrogen, as well as P, K, and the other secondary elements such as calcium, sulfates, and magnesium. Don’t forget the micronutrients which include the forgotten micronutrients nickel and molybdenum. Just because you do not get a yield increase does not mean you do not need them.

Sometimes lack of certain nutrients may result in a disease in your corn. You may say “where did that come from”. You want to do everything in your power to raise a good corn crop.

That brings us to bulking a crop of corn. You would use growth elements to bulk it. If you have low calcium or potassium use calcium nitrate or potassium nitrate to replenish your bulking elements. Sometimes natural products can help with bulking kernels such as LSB which helps cytokinesis or cell division.

You may want to think about bulking your corn crop. Now is a good time to think about it.

God bless,


Wendell Owens

of International Ag Labs

Wendell Owen

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